No sooner was it rumoured in the bazaar that we were about to return to Cabul, than several Hindoo bankers waited upon us to pay their respects and offer whatever sums of money we might require for the journey. They were all very anxious to lend, and were much dissatisfied at the insignificant amount of the cash we required, though the only security was a written promise that we would pay the amount to a certain banker in Cabul on our return; they offered us as much as ten thousand rupees, and appeared very anxious to avail themselves of the opportunity of sending money to Cabul. At all events their confidence was a gratifying proof of the high estimation in which the British name was held in that remote country.
After a most friendly parting interview with the Meer Walli, when he presented us with a horse and baggage pony, we started from Koollum on the 22nd of July, accompanied, by the Meer’s special directions, by one of his confidential servants to act ostensibly as our guide, but who, probably, had also his secret instructions to report on all such of our proceedings as might in any way affect the interests of his master.
We proposed to diverge from the route by which we had advanced, at Heibuk, passing through Ghoree, in the territories of the Koondooz chief, and returning to Badjgh[=a]r by the Dushti Suffaed pass, which Sturt was very anxious to survey.
Our first day’s march brought us to Hazree Sultan, and the next morning we reached Heibuk, where we were cordially welcomed by our old friend Meer Baber Beg, and had again to undergo the infliction of that detestable compound of grease, flour, salt, and tea, which the Meer in his hospitality was always pressing us to swallow.
On our departure the next morning, he sent us a present of a horse; an indifferent one, ’tis true, but, at least, it marked his kindly feeling; he warned us not to delay longer than was absolutely necessary in the country of Meer Moorad Beg, whom he described in no very flattering terms; and he, moreover, cautioned us against the Koondooz fever, which he declared would inevitably attack us if we were not very careful in selecting our encamping ground at a distance from the pestilential marshes which skirted the bases of the hills. We thanked him for his friendly advice, and started for Rhob[=a]t, where we arrived after a dismal ride of twenty-two miles. The country through which we travelled was perhaps the most dreary portion of Toorkisth[=a]n; for about twelve miles we traversed a dry low grass jungle of about a foot in height, tenanted by a species of wild goat, several of which we disturbed on our passage through their haunts, but not being prepared for any sport, I did not take advantage of their unwariness.
The road was utterly devoid of water for a space of full sixteen miles, at the end of which we came upon a scanty supply, scarce sufficient for our immediate necessities and utterly inadequate for a force of any magnitude. The pista tree, the fruit of which is carried to the Indian market, was seen here in considerable quantities; it is very similar in its growth and foliage to the Dauk of Hindoostan.